« AnteriorContinua »
derived from his word, or conformable to it, are there*fore sinful in themselves, and make every thing proceeding from them defective and displeasing in his sight. If you are attempting to serve him by your own natural strength and understanding, be assured that you have not yet taken up the yoke of Christ; if you had, you would find it answerable to the character he has given of it, for his word is truth. But your constrained obedience you
know in yourselves, far from being easy and light, is a heavy burden which you would be glad to cast off if you durst. You serve the Lord as a slave serves a hard master, not with a willing mind, but of necessity, and from a dread of punishment. But in vain do you draw near to him with your lips while your heart is far from him. Therefore spend no longer your labour for that which is not bread, but come to Jesus that you may find rest for your souls. He is able to take away your heart of stone, and give you a heart of flesh, to put a new spirit in you that shall delight in his yoke, to give you strength and ability for every part of your duty, and to make you a willing people in the day
of his power.
Believers, rejoice in your security. The Lord has given you a never-dying principle of love, and provided for you a never-failing supply of grace. These will bear you up through all your journey, and at last bring you safely home to the mansions provided for you
in your Father's house. Then shall you praise him, world without end.
BELIEVERS CAUTIONED AGAINST MISCONDUCT IN
Rom. xiv. 16.
THE immediate occasion of this caution you may learn from the context. It has pleased God from the beginning, to permit his people, who all agree in the great and essential truths of the Gospel, to differ in some things of less importance. This difference of judgment gives room for the mutual exercise of patience, forbearance, tenderness, and charity; but at the same time too often affords opportunity for the remaining corruptions of the heart to discover and exert themselyes. The Jewish converts were for some time attached to the observance of that distinction in meats and drinks which had been enjoined by the law of Moses; the Gentiles, on the contrary, claimed a right to be free from this yoke, as a part of the liberty which they had received from Christ. The apostle does not in this place blame either party with respect to their own judgment and practice; but he reproves theın for censuring and despising each other; and he especially reproves those who understood their liberty in the Gospel, for not being prudent in the use of it, but rather forward to provoke and offend their weaker brethren. He confirms their liberty, but admonishes them not to abuse it, either by urging others to act against their VOL. II.
consciences, or by treating them with contempt, because they had not entirely laid aside those scruples and prejudices to which they had been long accustomed. “Let “not your good be evil spoken of.” Be thankful for your liberty, but do not bring it into discredit and reproach, by acting in an unbecoming spirit towards others.
The instruction in my text, understood in this sense, has always been applicable and seasonable in the Christian church, and perhaps never more so than in our land, and in our times. While believers in Jesus, who are led by the same Spirit into the same fundamental truths, and stand in the most endeared relation to each other through their common Head, place such undue stress upon lesser incidental differences, and are professed partisans for the little interests of systems, denominations, and leaders, love, the grand characteristic of their profession, is hardly discernible; they censure and grieve each other, retard the success of the cause which they would all be thought to have most at heart, and open the mouths of the adversaries to revile that which they understand not. The prevalence of this wrong position calls for the admonition in my text. Be thankful for your privileges; you not only claim the rights of private judgment and liberty of conscience, as men and as Christians, but as Britons you possess them. “ Let not then your good be evil spoken of;" allow to others that freedom which you expect yourselves; and if you do not suppose yourselves infallible, suppose it possible that some may be as near to the Lord as yourselves, who cannot agree with you in every sentiment you have adopted.
But this direction may be taken in a mcch more gen. eral sense. It behooves all who honour the Lord Jesus Christ to be careful in every part of their conduct, that
they do not give occasion for their good to be evil spoken of. To make the subject as suitable as I can to the different states and characters of all present, I shall
1. Inquire, what is the believer's good.
2. Explain and apply the advice here given, "Let not ស your good be evil spoken of."
I. All mankind have something near at heart, on which their dependence is placed, and wherein they find their chief pleasure. This, (whatever it is,) is their good; and according to the object in which they delight is their proper character. Bynature the world and worldly things are the highest good we seek after; and these, in one view or other, as tempers and situations vary, are pursued with unwearied earnestness. Riches, honours, sinful pleasures, are the poor things in view, when the unrenewed heart cries out, in its eager pursuits, "Who "will show us any good *?" If your strongest desires tend this way, your good will not be evil spoken of by many. Men will praise you when you do well for yourself; you are not therefore concerned in the admonition in my text. Only take notice what the word of God declares of your good, and of you for accounting it so. Your good is vanity, your fruit is vexation of spirit, and you who set your hearts on such a good as the objects of sense can furnish, are adjudged "enemies to Godt.' You yourselves will speak evil of this good when you come to die, if you die in your sins. Then you will see a propriety in Esau's words to your own case,
hold, I am at the point to die, and what profit shall "this birth-right do to me?"
As the world is the good of the unconverted, so a covenant God in Christ is the good and portion of all who
* Psal. iv. 6. † James iv. 4.
‡ Gen. xxv. 32,
are called by his grace. They are ever looking to the obedience and blood of Jesus, applied by the Spirit of grace, as the sole foundation of their hope and comfort. God is their good in the highest sense, and every thing else is good so far as it leads to him, and assists them in maintaining communion with him. In this view we may mention several particulars, each of which they account their good, because the means of enjoying and glorifying their God.
1. The Gospel, that gracious revelation by which they have been taught to know themselves, and to know Jesus, is their good. All the doctrines, precepts, and promises, contained in the Scripture, are a very precious treasure, in which they rejoice more than those who find great spoil. Each of them can say, in the language of the Psalmist, "The law of thy mouth is dearer to me "than thousands of gold and silver. How sweet are "thy words unto my taste, yea, sweeter than honey to
my mouth! O how I love thy law! It is my meditation "all the day long." By this word they are enlightened, quickened, warned, comforted, and supported; therefore it is the joy and rejoicing of their hearts, and more than their necessary food †.
2. The ordinances make a part of their good. A famine of the word of the Lord would distress them greatly; and if they may but have frequent opportunities of this kind, and meet with his gracious presence in them, they can be content to be without many things which the men of this world highly value. When beset with many straits, and surrounded with troubles, they can find refreshment in the Lord's assurance by the prophet, "And though "the Lord give you the bread of adversity, and the water
Psal. cxix. 72. 97. 103.
t Job xxiii. 12.